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Zulu

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Reply with quote  #1 
I have a question about our unsung hero; the tanpura.
It’s always in the background providing a canvas for us to paint on…
Does anyone use it for more than that or ouside its usual context?..such as a possible meditation type thing.
I don’t own one yet but I can imagine myself sitting with just a tanpura for and hour just strumming while looking out my window, meditating, listening to birds and just being one with all things.
Has anyone done this or any sort of practice that involves tanpura outside of its usual usage?
Also; should an ICM musician play tanpura as well as his/her main instrument...is there more to learn from tanpura than its basic use?

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nicneufeld

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Obviously as you mention the tanpura plays a very important role in anchoring the tonic for other musicians. In addition to establishing the tonic it can add color in other ways...the usual tuning is with one Pa string and three or more Sa, but some raags will use a Ni which adds a very beautiful color, and the "pa-less" raags use some interesting tunings on occasion, often centering around Ma. One interesting tuning I heard on a Nikhil Banerjee recording (Hemant) was Ma-Dha-Sa'-Sa, it was really hard for me to not hear it as Sa-Ga-Pa-'Pa. Different instruments require the tanpura in different ways. For vocal ICM it seems all but essential, and for tarab-free instruments like the rudra veena in dhrupad it seems fairly constant. I've noticed Maihar gharana sitarists tend to use them a little more commonly than Etawah gharana. Ust. Imrat Khan told me the gandhar pancham tuning of his brother had a sort of, as he said, "built-in tanpura" in the chikaris and quite often they will perform just with tabla, no tanpura, although I've seen several videos where there were two tanpura players on stage with Vilayat Khansaheb. Although I wonder if sometimes it is more for looks, particularly when the players are female!

Sometimes I will play my tanpura (Rikhi Ram instrumental style) for grins by itself, and hum softly on a raag. I'm no singer by any stretch but it is nice to play tanpura and sing a bit. Certainly it can be very relaxing to play a well adjusted, resonant tanpura. Definitely feels more alive when the dandi is resonating next to your head, than say, a recording of a tanpura or a tanpura machine being played.

As far as how to know how to play it I imagine most string musicians will adjust to it easily...coming from a bass background the finger plucking technique is very natural for me, but when my wife tried (she played flute) she had a hard time getting a smooth, soft sound from the strings, so it might take a bit of practice for a non-string player. Keeping it in tune might be a bigger challenge!
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nicneufeld

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Reply with quote  #3 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Zulu"
Does anyone use it for more than that or ouside its usual context?..such as a possible meditation type thing.
LOL, with the late 20thC popularity of Indian music in America in a certain subculture, I think the answer is absolutely yes...it wouldn't surprise me at all if the majority of tanpuras bought by Americans were used for people doing meditation, yoga, or whatnot rather than to accompany Indian classical music!
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Zulu"
Also; should an ICM musician play tanpura as well as his/her main instrument...is there more to learn from tanpura than its basic use?
Knowing how to do it is not an unuseful skill...if I am not mistaken when Tony (sitarfixer) was touring with Panditji (taking care of his instruments) he was also a tanpura player on stage. Now that has to be the best seat in the house!!! Also, there's a nice pic somewhere of Max (mahadev) on stage with the late Ust. Asad Ali Khan, playing a tanpura of his own construction. So, if only to be ready at a moments notice to accompany a master, should the occasion arise!!
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fossesitar

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Reply with quote  #4 
To own a good tanpura is a wonderful thing. As you may be aware, most tanpura are optimized by the use if thread or yarn under the strings on the bridge to get the buzz "just right" from the jawari. This is only possible on strings that are never fretted. Singing or just humming with the tanpura are wonderful paths to the comtemplative or spiritual state. The normal tuning I am most familiar with is (in the order they are plucked) SA-PA-PA-LOW SA. Personally I believe the tanpura or some form of drone (I-Tanpura on the phone works wonderfully) is a great boon when tuning and playing even the GP sitar, although, because of the playing style of VK I prefer the tanpura to be very much in the background, almost inaudible except as the drone strings on the sitar decay and die away. For singing or meditation or chanting AUM quite the opposite and the tanpura sound should fill the room IMHO....... GF
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nicneufeld

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Reply with quote  #5 
Oh, another thing that (particularly electric) tanpuras are good for...getting, and keeping, your instrument in tune!

Agreed on how different settings call for a different intensity in tanpura...even when its barely audible, often it is just barely there, creeping in behind the main instrument at a barely perceptible level. Two extremes, just in Ustadji's case...the Chandni Kedar from UIK/UVK in the 60s, recorded in the Taj Mahal, must have several thunderously ambient tanpuras ringing out, its like a sea of sound, especially with the natural reverb. Then take one of his excellent live surbahar alaps, where as notes decay and reveal nothing but a pure absence of sound, a hushed auditorium, you almost catch your breath...its a very dramatic ABSENCE of tanpura drone that he uses to great dramatic/musical effect. Everything in its right place, to quote a poncey 90s Britrock band I grew up with!
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CheesecakeTomek

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Zulu"
Does anyone use it for more than that or ouside its usual context?..such as a possible meditation type thing.
Sure, putting yourself inside a constant sound is the same as repeating a mantra. The usual tuning of the tanpura is particularly nice because the overtones of Pa and Sa complement each other very well (hearing Re, Ga, komal Ni on a good day). My teacher gave me a great exercise: play the tanpura for 15 minutes, then spend 15 minutes listening to it in your head. I practiced it for a while and it was a very beautiful experience, recreating the sound, overtones and all. Really nice practice.
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John

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Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Zulu"
Does anyone use it for more than that or ouside its usual context?..such as a possible meditation type thing.
Are the two mutually exclusive? :wink:

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yussef ali k

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Reply with quote  #8 
Hi, all.

Once, I was left w/ a tanpura for 2 days so I agree w/ all the above posts.
But an abandoned empty bottle (= its neck) really did open it for me: all the ragas live there.
It is said the sitar was once called the Nibaddh Tanpura. Quite rightly so.

Have fun.
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chrisitar

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Reply with quote  #9 
I have wondered what a tanpura would sound like played with a slide like vichitra veena, blasphemy im sure, but curious...
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nicneufeld

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Reply with quote  #10 
I've tried on my tanpura but the strings are roundwounds (0.022 0.028 and 0.040 phsphor bronze) and the string tension isn't quite enough to get a solid sound. Maybe on a normally string plain steel string tanpura?

I've also tried slides on the sitar. Can get a weak, halting tone, nothing quite like the fretted tone, but it does do wonders for your meend range!
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David Russell Watson

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "chrisitar"
I have wondered what a tanpura would sound like played with a slide like vichitra veena, blasphemy im sure, but curious...
It's not blasphemy, and has in fact been done before. Jnan Prakash Ghosh is supposed to have played the tambura in this manner on occasion, and, if memory serves correctly, one or more of the folk tamburas is sometimes played with a slide too.

It's not Indian music, but this clip might give a little bit of an idea of how it sounds. In this case pretty much like a badly played vichitr bin.



David
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Kirya

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Reply with quote  #12 
Both the IPhone and Android have very usable Tanpura apps and I often use the Android one when I practice

Even if it is just alankars and yes it does help to keep you tuned correctly especially when practicing meend

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